As I mentioned in the comments of the game preview, this was a game that I had the pleasure of attending. And let me just say that I don’t think I could have been at a more entertaining game. The crowd was great, the game was a back and forth affair, and in the end the Lakers dodged a couple of daggers from Curry and Monta and came out victorious. All in all a pretty good night. As for the breakdown of what I saw from the stands, here it is bullet style:
*This really was a game of size vs. speed. Bynum, Gasol, and Odom pretty much towered over every Warrior’s defender that tried to guard them. After looking at the box score, it’s no surprise that those three guys combined for 62 points and 35 rebounds (including 12 offensive) while converting on 23 of their 33 shots. The Warriors had no answer for our big men inside and the Lakers could and should have exploited this match up more than they did this evening. There were at least 6 to 10 plays where I thought the ball needed to go into the post, but instead the wing man looked off our big man and swung the ball around the perimeter instead. I’m not exactly sure what the wing player saw, but I know I saw an open big man fighting for position on the block against a player that was at least 5 inches shorter. And I should mention that even though all of our bigs played well, I thought Pau was the most impressive. He again showed a wide array of post moves and also had a couple of nice jumpers from the wing. One play that I was particularly impressed with was when he made the catch on the left wing at about 20 feet out and was picked up by Maggette. Pau then proceeded to dribble towards the rim, shield off Maggette, turn into the paint, and then drop a soft right handed hook into the cup. On a possession he started near the three point line, the man got a lay up all with a SF pestering him on his handle. That big Spaniard is quite skilled.
*If there were two areas where the Lakers really played poorly it was their pick and roll defense and their carelessness with the ball on offense. On the P&R, I thought the Lakers did a good job of stringing out the Warriors guards and not allowing them a direct path to the basket, but absolutely no one was covering the screen man after the pick was set. I don’t know how it looked on television, but watching the Warriors big men just dive to the cup over and over again to get easy buckets was quite frustrating. And even when the Lakers did collapse the paint to contest the roll man, they left shooters around the arc wide open with nary a close out. I understand that Golden State plays a style of play with unorthodox lineups that are tough to contend with. But it really was maddening watching Steph Curry dissect us with easy passes to players that were wide open. And then the turnovers? There were times where it seemed like the Lakers were confused as to who their teammates were. In the first half Bynum literally threw the ball away twice in a manner that had me completely convinced that he did not even bother to look before he passed. Eight turnovers for our young big man and that is way too many. But, he doesn’t even take the cake when it comes to giving the ball away because of Kobe’s nine(!) miscues. Kobe’s first two giveaways were innocent enough as Monta read his backdown dribble and reached around for a nifty steal and then later Kobe just threw a bad pass on a lob pass to Bynum that they’ve executed a hundred times before. But over the course of the evening, the jump passes and the mishandled dribbles became more and more frustrating to watch. 24 total turnovers for the Lakers and they were only able to get back 5 of their own from a solid Warriors team. Rarely do you win when you’re -19 in the turnover game but the Lakers found a way.
*Until you actually see Golden State in person and witness their commitment to pushing the pace I don’t think you can fully appreciate how hard they get out and run. They really do race the ball up the court and attack you with hard drives to the rim, floaters in the lane, and drag screen and rolls. And then when they see you recovering to the paint to stop Maggette or Watson or Ellis on their drives, Morrow and Tolliver and Curry break free to shoot wide open jumpers from behind the arc. It’s no wonder that Kobe was saying after the game that they’ll take the win and not take much from this specific game. No other team plays a style and with such abandon that the Warriors do. Even the 7 seconds or less Suns had some sort of method to their madness. This Warriors team is like watching those old Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble LMU teams. They just run and run and run and fire up shots and pressure you into playing their style. If they could actually defend the paint and rebound, they’d really be dangerous.
*I hate to use this play on words but the Lakers must be into sloppy seconds. This was another game where they showed no desire to execute on offense or defense in the second period. This truly has been an ongoing theme this season and I don’t get it. I recall during the Denver broadcast a couple of weeks ago the announcers mentioned how the Lakers own the best point differential in the NBA for the first quarter. So, maybe they just get comfortable with their lead and start to relax or maybe our bench really is that bad and they can’t focus on playing the style that built up the lead. I really wish I had an answer, but I don’t. Against the Warriors, the Lakers turned a 7 point first quarter lead into a 6 point halftime deficit and if it looked half as ugly on TV as it did in person, I’m sorry for all of you just like I felt sorry for myself. The only thing that made it worse were these two 20-something kids behind me asking if I was a Lakers fan and then proceeding to tell me how much better Cleveland and Lebron are than the Lakers and Kobe. Good times at Oracle at halftime.
*The Lakers are obviously struggling with their backup guards. Farmar’s hand still is not right (that missed lefty reverse is a shot that he’s converted all season) and Sasha’s leash is incredibly short (Phil actually put Sasha in, watched him force a pass to a covered teammate, and then instantly whistled to Farmar to go back in – wow). You throw in Shannon and his (some would say over) confidence in his ability to get a shot and there aren’t too many positives with this group. I was happy to see Shannon get some crunch time burn, but I was not happy to see him ignore big men that had good post position, or watch him dribble between his legs as he probed the defense for an opening that never materialized, or watch him go under screens on Curry when the kid was obviously feeling good about his offense. I think it’s obvious at this point that the coaches have empowered Shannon to play this way, but I’m really missing the guy that we got from Charlotte last season; the guy that played masterfully off the ball and only shot when he was open and was a willing passer. Whatever happened to that player, I may never know nor understand.
*As for the Warriors, I must give them a bunch of credit. These guys don’t quit and they play until the final buzzer. They have enough talent on offense to keep any game close and if you miss enough shots or turn the ball over enough they will hang tough with you for an entire game. Curry is something special, Maggette is finally free to just attack as often as he likes, and their bigs (despite their lack of pedigree) are skilled enough to hit the open shots that are made available to them. If Monta Ellis could have bought a bucket tonight, this game could have been much, much different and likely would have titled to the Warriors. And even with a “C” performance from Monta, the Warriors still had a chance to tie the game at the end and had a shot rim out that just as easily could have fallen.
In the end, just an exciting game and a great atmosphere to watch it in. I really can’t say enough about the crowd and how they created an environment that inspired their home team to give their all. The chants of “defense” were deafening at times and while I don’t think the Lakers were affected, I know that the Warriors were motivated by their home fans. I was lucky enough to attend the Warriors/Dallas playoff games during the “We Believe” era of the team and while this crowd wasn’t quite to that level they were close there in the second period and at the end of the game. When the Lakers went on their run in the middle part of the fourth quarter, you did hear a lot of Lakers cheers, but those fans just seemed to motivate the Warriors fans to come alive again for that one final push at the end. Again, just a great crowd that really knows its hoops and makes the game that much more fun to be at.